Profile Jamie Bauer

We can’t wait to introduce you to Mrs. Jamie Bauer. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary education, pursued a teaching career in the public school system, but then decided that environment just wasn’t the right fit for her. Now, in her third year at Baan Dek, she’s gone back to receive her Montessori certification from The Montessori Institute Denver, and has spearheaded our Toddler program. 

Mrs. Bauer has that patience and graciousness that only the best gardeners, farmers and teachers have: the ability to plant seeds, nurture them with care, love, and respect - and believe, above all else, that they will produce amazing things. We're continually inspired by how much Mrs. Bauer has grown, and, more than that, how much she is willing to help everyone grow. We hope you enjoy the conversation.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?

A: I grew up in a small town in Iowa. Until attending Denver for training, Sioux Falls was the biggest city I’ve ever lived in! I have a super cool husband that I met at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. There, I studied Elementary Education with focuses on special education and reading. I worked for 2 years in the public school system, before deciding that it just wasn’t working out. I started looking for alternatives, and began at Baan Dek as an assistant in the primary classroom.

My hobbies? I like reading and outdoor activities, especially in warm weather. I’m not a huge fan of the cold! My husband Aaron and I love to go for bike rides, and breakfast on Saturday morning is our special treat. In Sioux Falls, our go-to is M.B. Haskett, downtown. :)

Recently, I’ve started learning how to use my sewing machine a bit better, although I wouldn’t call myself a seamstress. My mother sews well, and hopefully I’ll learn from her one day.

Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What's your favorite color?

A: Blue or gray, I tend towards those color in all my decorating and clothing.

Q: Switching to Montessori, how did you find out about us? And Montessori in general?

A: In March or April of 2012, I was getting married and didn’t know what I wanted to do, although I knew I didn’t want to go back to a public school. I was a little stressed out about it, and was chatting with a colleague of mine when she mentioned Baan Dek. I shot Bobby and June an email and expressed interest. I got an email in response that said, come on in, let’s chat! The rest is history, I guess...

Q: I guess! What makes Baan Dek unique to you?

A: Baan Dek doesn’t only care about the outcome of the child, but every person we come in contact with, moms, dads, brothers, sisters. We are welcoming and loving and embrace people.

Q: You went to receive your training after working one year as an assistant in the classroom. Did having prior experience shape your training experience? In what way?

A: Having previous experience was really good, I think, because I knew the outcome of what I was learning. I was doing things in reverse, really. I had experience with two through six year olds, then went back to school to learn about children age 18 months to two years. I had experience with children whom I would, essentially, be creating.

Q: Did you have a “Montessori moment”?

A: For me, it was in second grade. I was super shy and didn’t like to talk. At that time, I had a teacher who invested in me as an individual, took time to find out what I was interested in, and to foster it. She made me feel like I was special and had value, and that experience shaped how I wanted to be as an educator. Montessori has that same focus on education as an individual and unique experience.


Q: What advice would you have for someone thinking about receiving their Montessori certification?

A: It’s a job that requires abundant patience and grace and love, and you don’t do it for you, you do it for them.

Traditional education and Montessori may have similar goals, but they are manifested differently. I was teaching for love of children in the public school as well, but there was no freedom in it. Every child had those milestones they needed to achieve, and that was the most important thing, with little flexibility or thought about the child as an individual.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about your training experience in Denver?

A: It was fantastic.  I felt extremely lucky to be at that training center, The Montessori Institute Denver. I went to Denver two consecutive summers, 8 weeks and 9 weeks, while working at Baan Dek in the interim. During the school year, I put in 250 hours of observing children from birth to three, which was so intense! My trainer, Judy, was in the very first A-I class in Italy, which is getting excellent first-hand experience. She was the very first class to be trained for this age group.

Maria Montessori herself wasn’t in charge of the first A-I program, but before she passed, she was in the process of designing the program along with her colleagues.

It was nice to have a little previous experience in the classroom before starting training, but I would say not necessary.

Q: We feel that there are similarities in our path to discovering Montessori. We started down a traditional one, but then had a strenuous transition to get to where we are now. Can you speak about that?

A: Definitely. For me, what caused the switch in mindset was being in the public system. I was in a classroom for high and low achieving students. They have a recommended formula that just wasn’t working for the mixed classroom. It was stressful and hurt my heart, and I felt like I was failing as a teacher. I had learned about Montessori briefly and remember the independence component, and that really resonates with me. So the transition was difficult, and the realization that something needed to change only came after hardship and some self-reflection.

Q: You’ve started the first Montessori toddler program in the state of South Dakota. That’s huge!

A: It feels so exciting! When people ask about what I do, I have such great things to say. At the same time, it’s a big responsibility, and I want to do the age group justice and our school justice. There’s some judgement when I say I work with toddler’s, and I try my best to educate people. At Baan Dek, we strive to be the best of the best, and there’s pride along with responsibility in that.

Q: What are some of the challenges of starting a toddler program?

A: It was hard to build the program from nothing because the toddler environment is a different framework than Primary, which was what I had experience with. Also, because I am the first and only trained Toddler guide, I haven’t had someone to speak with about my decisions. Not having a mentor within the building has been a challenge, but ultimately a good thing. It’s made me be more independent and decisive.

Q: What are your greatest hopes for your students?

I hope that they will learn how to love others and to have a passion for life with self- control. I want them to be passionate, but also in control. I want them to explore and to desire to explore, and to desire everything they can.


 

Spotlight: How We Montessori

We are greatly looking forward to introducing you to Kylie, operator of one of our favorite blogs on the interwebs, “How we Montessori”. We first came across her site completely by happenstance. We can't remember exactly what we were searching for, or hoping to discover, but we suddenly found ourselves immersed in a treasure trove of rich and meaningful content, written from the perspective of a Montessori parent in Australia. Since then, we return frequently, with the same sense of original delight. Now, we're so very excited to share her story with you.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?

I live in Brisbane, Australia with my husband and two sons. Caspar is seven and Otis is three. My professional background is in Environmental Health which led me to work in Local Government for many years before having children. I grew up in a rural area and although I love the city I also long for wide open spaces. I dream of good friends, good food and a healthy family. I currently blog at How we Montessori and I am a small business owner.

Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What's your favorite colour?

Yellow. It's bright, sunny, warm and optimistic.

Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?

I'm addicted to news and politics which besides Montessori covers most of my reading material.

Q: Can you tell us about your hobbies?

I think more about hobbies than I actually do. Most of my free time is spent researching. I love cooking and I would love to develop more of my professional skills. I would love to try pottery.

Q: Switching to Montessori, did you have a “Montessori Moment”?

I have had many Montessori moments. One that was most special happened at Canberra Montessori School. My son Caspar had already been attending for a couple of years. One afternoon I went to pick him up early for an appointment. The door to the classroom was open and no one knew I was there. I stood out of sight watching the children for few minutes. The sun was streaming in through the large windows, the Directress was with some children washing the class pet, other children were busy working. I had tears in my eyes, the scene was so, so serene and simply beautiful. It was like wow - this is how it is supposed to be! That moment confirmed that I wanted my children in a Montessori school.

I've had many very moving moments observing my own children and their personal achievements. Moments where I can see their sense of achievement on their face, 'yes I did it'. From Otis using his weaning glass to standing and walking - all of these have been Montessori moments for me.

Q: How did you start, “How we Montessori”?

I started blogging as a way to reach out to other parents. I was reading a lot of home Montessori blogs but found them unsatisfying. They didn't give me enough practical information. I wanted to share the details of Montessori in the home, the exact what, where and when. Even today many blogs and Montessori/educational websites touch the surface but very few go deep enough or are honest enough for me.

I also had difficulty getting advice or information from people in my own community. When I was pregnant with Otis I reached out to my local Montessori community. Although there were many experienced Montessori teachers and parents - I couldn't find anyone who had used a floor bed or a Montessori mobile. There were very few Australian resources to help me parent the way I wanted to, the Montessori way from birth.  I personally thought this was outrageous and decided to go on a wholehearted education campaign about infant Montessori. Through the blog I would share step by step, day by day what we were doing. Very soon I formed many close friendships and lots of connections with other parents. I ended up receiving more help than I was giving! Now I have progressed even further with my own store where I stock many of those materials that previously were so hard to find.

Q: It’s such a wonderful resource, and it really presents the importance of a Montessori way of life. Is this how you envisioned it from the start?

I really didn't start with a vision. I started writing from the heart. I wanted to be honest and informative. I wanted to be as true to Montessori as possible and to be an advocate.  I'm not great at communicating especially the depths of Montessori in our home - but I give it a shot and hope that readers can sense our commitment to the philosophy and why it's so important.

Q: Can you share this sense of a life’s journey? What we mean is, some of your readers may have been following along for years…

Very rarely do I stop and look back on our journey. We end up where we are supposed to be. It's wonderful that many relationships formed through the blog have been enduring. I think that time also builds trust. We have walked the walk for many years and it's there for everyone to see. I also love the familiarity that blogging brings. I love hearing from readers who I have known for years and have become good friends. I love that on the blog you can read about Montessori from birth through to primary age. There are a lot moments and experiences within those blog posts.  

Q: We also love your shop. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your products, and what the process has been like to get it going?

The process has been very difficult and very consuming from the start. I wish I had completed a business degree first! I have made so many business related mistakes but I am learning all the time.

I am inspired by Michael Olaf and the work of Susan Stephenson. I am also inspired by the many makers, the crafters who make Montessori materials. I  wanted a way to bring these makers together and have the materials accessible to Australian families. In Australia there are many toy shops and Montessori school supply places but there wasn't a place where you could buy Montessori materials for infants and toddlers for the home. Previously in Australia you couldn't get Montessori toddler aprons, Interlocking Discs or Gobbi Mobiles. The process of connecting with these makers, parents and Montessori teachers has been a really special part of my life.

The inspiration behind our products is simple. We stock the materials we love and use in our own home. If we haven't used it I don't stock it. Items like the Topponcino are an exception. I couldn't find one when Otis was born but would have used one if I could. It's never really about the materials. It is about what the child can do, it's what they can achieve with the materials that is important!

Q: What’s your favorite education related quote?

It has to be 'follow the child'. I remind myself of this every day. It's not about the parent, what you want the child to do or to experience. It is not about what you want them to learn. It is about meeting the developmental needs of the individual child at that exact moment.

Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?

Visit a Montessori school, ask around, connect with other parents. Sign up for a toddler class. The internet isn't always a good place for genuine Montessori information. Parents need to have access to real life experiences. Find someone in your community who is Montessori trained and connect. I honestly believe you have to see Montessori in action (in homes or schools) to really understand it's significance.

Q: And lastly, with that in mind, what advice can you give to people who are interested in Montessori, but who aren’t quite sure where to start?

Don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed. Take it step by step. Make small changes. Observe your child and see if the changes are working, if they are continue. If the changes are not working reassess. Montessori puts the child first, life is not a race. I suggest starting by creating a calm and organised home environment, immerse the child in nature and most of all respect the child.

Question of Work

We thought we would take this opportunity to address the question of work in Montessori. Why do we use the word work, as opposed to play, or any number of other verbs, to describe the activities children do on a daily basis? Was this a deliberate choice by Montessori? What are the implications? What type of community does Montessori hope to create by the promotion and utilization of the word work? Further, what is the underlying philosophy behind the decision?

While work often receives negative connotations, especially in our contemporary locution, it’s important to point out that Montessori fosters a positive conception of work. How often do we hear the phrase, often sighed, sometimes by those closest to us, our even by ourselves, “I have to go to work today.” Yet, for children, they are still developing, not only an appreciation for language, how it is used socially and culturally, but also, what could be called an ethics of life. For Montessori, work is a gift and a necessity of a meaningful life. “I get to go work today.”

Essentially, children are discovering what Montessori names, rather inspirationally, “another kind of work which has its origins in life itself”. Work, not as livelihood. Work, as the passion of a life truly lived. In ‘The Child, Society, and the World,’ Montessori goes on to offer an important distinction between these two different types of work. Consequently, she offers the parameters by which to help us start to think more concretely about how the Montessori approach to learning addresses this division, and how it is different from the traditional model.

“One must live and the means of livelihood are given by work - that is certain. It is also true that we must have feet in order to walk but it is not true that because we ought to have feet in order to walk, that all our body is composed of feet alone. That we must work in order to live is true, but that is not the whole story, nor is it the aim of work. If we work with this aim which is not the real aim, then everything comes up wrong side out.”

As always, Montessori has a wonderful, spirited way of placing everything in just the right context - with just the right amount of sauciness - a context that we can easily relate to, identify with, and ultimately come to understand, if not wholeheartedly adopt. Regardless of what position we endorse, Montessori forces us to take our standard assumptions into consideration. What makes Montessori so relevant today, in our estimations, is not only her alternative approach to education, which is not a contrarian stance, but rather, one that we continue to find inherently, to use a turn of phrase, ‘to just make sense’. It feels intuitive.

In terms of education, which Montessori always finds a way back towards, she relays that one of the major faults of the traditional educational system is that it treats children in a singular way, by attempting to equip them with the necessary skills to obtain a job, more often than not, at the expense of trying to foster an appreciation or love of learning. Quite simply, the traditional approach was not designed to encourage children to enjoy the process of apprenticeship itself, which is not to say that anyone who works in that system is at fault. It’s just not set up that way.
 
What the traditional system involves, therefore, is a plan of education, one that most of us are intimately familiar with and probably educated by, that helps ready children for the work force. We all know the lineages. In this case, the most efficient way to accomplish that, is by preparing students to pass examinations. Thereby, the school will help children advance one step closer to a profession, a profession which is largely chosen for them, or in the least, encouraged by the method of preparation itself, i.e.: if a child demonstrates a certain proficiency in a certain subject matter, they are more likely to succeed in that area.

This routine, of preparing children for work, is one that persists from the moment children enter school, to the moment they leave and pursue a profession. “By doing this”, Montessori says, “we learn what we might call a manual art of the brain”. Which is to say, we are conditioned from our very first moments,  to try to think in terms of how best to prepare to pass examinations, rather than to try to learn how to think, work, and live on our own. Thought demands courage in a way that an examination cannot assess.

Yet, as Montessori graciously reminds us, “no matter if we are doctors, teachers, or professors, we all take the thing as a job, just as much of a job as the fishermen who go to fish. It is a means by which one makes his own living. And if there are differences in human beings and different classes, there is one thing which is common to all of them - each seeks the kind of work which brings him money. And it is only just that one should work and find a means of living. But the child”, highlights Montessori, “is conscious of another kind of work”.

This other type of work that Montessori alludes to is the type of work that children exemplify, both in their innocence and in their fearless engagement with the world. Children are, almost by nature, ready to confront what seems impossible, not out of inexperience alone, but out of a certain willingness, or life perspective, to try to meet things where they are. They are not yet governed by what we accepts as our conventional limitations.  It is almost, as Montessori elucidates, a higher necessity, a calling to discover the joy of learning, the happiness to be found in the pursuit of a life spent searching for a different set of questions. 

“One’s life work”, we hear, so often uttered with respect and admiration. 

With the above in mind, Montessori was very deliberate in her choice of the word work. She aw it as a guiding principle to the cultivation of a new type of learner, one that was not conditioned by a method of evaluation, but that was inspired by a mode of life. While the traditional approach may prepare children to make a living, it doesn’t prepare them for happy living.

“By working in this fashion, he arrives at an inner level and he does not think about examinations and of what class he is in. He does not think about what kind of work he is going to do in life, whether he is going to be an engineer or a teacher or whatever. We have thus been able to put together children of difference degrees and levels of culture, because what interests them is the work itself and they do not feel any artificial pride.”

With that, we’ll leave you with a final, lovely quote from Montessori: 

“If it were true that man need not work in order to live or man did not work in order to find a means of having enough money to get food and clothing for himself an his family, that man would work just the same, because man works just as he breathes and because it is a form of life. Without work, man would not be able to live without becoming ill, degenerate and old, and that is why work is one of the essentials of existence, of life. Men are urged to work by a need which is higher than the instinct of self-preservation, and a man who no longer works for himself or for his family is a man who does the great work of the world.”

 

Profile Kaylee Jones

Kaylee is one of our favorite types of Montessorians. She discovered it, the way it discovered her. Which is to say, she always knew she wanted to be a teacher, to help children learn, but there was something about the traditional system of education that didn’t resonate with her intuitions of the way she hoped things could be.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

A: I was born in Nebraska, Go Huskers!, and I’m a pretty typical Midwesterner. My contribution to every potluck is either my grandmother’s cheesy potatoes or tator tot hotdish. After getting my degree in Early Childhood Education and working a bit in a traditional school setting as well as a daycare, I knew I had to find something different. Baan Dek was the answer, and I’ve been here for over a year now.

Q: Things have really changed since you first started at Baan Dek! You were hired as a rover, of sorts, and now you are an assistant while training to become a Primary Guide.

A: Yes, this is actually the third position I’ve held! I knew nothing about Montessori coming in. It started out with the comment, “Hey, Baan Dek is hiring” from my roommate Sarah Skaff. I came into my first position working in after-care with the attitude of, maybe I’ll like it, maybe not. By the end of the first week I figured out that this whole Montessori thing is so different from anything I’ve ever been around. These people are crazy, and it works! There are 18 children eating at the same table, and everyone is so happy!

This first position was just dipping my toes into the Montessori world.  I’ve been around kids all my life, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I remember being in the classroom and seeing a 3 year old doing these amazing things! We have such low expectations, but I’m blown away every day by the children’s capabilities.

Transitioning from after care to the toddler room was also a big change. When we first started, the biggest work of the day for some of our 18 month olds was getting their shoes on by themselves. Then all of a sudden there was this explosion of knowledge! It was incredible.

Q: Are you one of the crazy ones now?

A: Yes! I’m crazy for Montessori. :)

Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from working at Baan Dek?

A: Baan Dek is not a school. It’s more than academics, we’re living life together. We’re all coming into this community, a hodge podge assortment of people, a group of misfits. We’re all the misfits thrown together, and we work! We work and grow together, with no judgements happening. We just help each other. It oozes into the environment and I think, into the children. We’re all here to do this together!

Q: That reminds us of one of our favorite Steve Jobs’ quotes! It begins: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels…” http://bndk.it/3R0q141M0t2R

Q: Did you have a Montessori moment?

I’ve had so many Montessori moments! Not necessarily one big one, but definitely many small ones. One moment that is a continual “Montessori moment” is the idea of freedom in the prepared environment. As Montessori explains, it’s not total all-out freedom. Instead, it’s freedom with discipline. Children will earn their freedom by showing they can handle it and are capable of bearing the responsibility that comes along with it. This concept was a big eye-opener for me, when first starting out, and continuing now while in training.

Another thing I see in the children that absolutely blows me away is the amount of effort they put forth in their work. For example, a child working with bead stringing who is putting every ounce of their effort into stringing one bead. I don’t put that amount of effort into anything, EVER! Can you imagine what I could do if I put that amount of effort into something!?

Q: You would be living on the moon by now!

A: No kidding! I think training was probably when I realized that Maria Montessori as a human being was so radical. She had an “I’m going to do whatever I want!” kind of attitude. For example, she was the first woman physician in Italy, which is not a small accomplishment. She never really stopped being different. She kept changing, from working in the slums of Rome to working with the mentally handicapped, she was constantly moving and improving. Even after she became established, she was still observing and traveling to study children. While in her 80’s, she traveled to Africa!

Q: Such clarity of vision! To relate it to our world, she would still be exploring the next frontier, like technology. Speaking of exploring, we know you love to travel. What are your next top destinations to visit?

A: Travel?! I LOVE to travel. My top picks would be...

  • Africa, because my brother and sister in-law are interested in working there.

  • California and the west coast in general. I’m thinking San Francisco.

  • China, and anywhere different. I like different things. I’ve been to Europe, and I loved it, but I’d like to travel more out of the box.

  • Australia, for the kangaroos

Q: Is this sense of adventure what drew you to Montessori?

A: It’s weird because I’m sometimes a reserved and anxious person, but when I start traveling or learning new things, I get so excited! For example, going to St. Louis this summer for training gave me a real feeling of possibility. Not only did I get to live in a new city for the summer, but I also got to learn how to do this Montessori thing! Not just observe, actually participate in the process of giving presentations, and delve deeper into the theory behind Montessori.

Q: Did your previous experience at Baan Dek help with training?

A: Definitely. There were a few members of our training group who had no experience in the Montessori classroom. I think it would be so confusing to start from scratch! There’s a lot to learn.

My advice to someone thinking about receiving their Montessori certification is this: If it’s something you want to do, then do it! Even if you haven't done enough research, or don’t have enough real world experience, don’t let it stop you from starting.

Q: What happens if Montessori becomes the status quo, what place will you have?

A: I don’t know. Part of the reason I left the public school is because it was too mainstream. It’s all so standard. Not because I wanted to be on the edge, or be different, but because it never fit. If Montessori is what the mainstream is, would I still want to have my different thing? I’d probably want to take it to the edge, take it to places it doesn’t exist. Like to different countries or cultures.

Q: Wow! Very inspiring! Ok, now for a change of pace. What’s your favorite color?

A: Blue. Hands down.

Q: We know you went to Scotland last year, do you have a favorite memory from that trip?

Besides the postcard of London I sent to Baan Dek? I remember my sister’s birthday, we were planning on doing something special. We went to a soccer game in Glasgow, and then instead of continuing to celebrate her special day, she gave me a birthday present instead! She took me on a Harry Potter tour!! It was a complete surprise. She isn’t interested in HP, but she went along with me on the group tour, and it was very special.

Q: What about a favorite Montessori material?

A: Trinomial Cube. But during training this summer I fell in love with Washing Hands, so it might be a toss up.

Q: What treats do you always say yes to?

A: Chocolate, anything with chocolate.

Q: What is your favorite type of restaurant to frequent?

A: Coffee shop/bistro. In Sioux Falls my favorite is Coffea!

Q: You have 15 minutes of free time, what do you do with it?

A: Surf Pinterest or Instagram.

Q: What is your favorite Starbucks drink?

A: Java Chip Frappuccino, it’s like a chocolate chip shake!

Q: What was your favorite childhood book or movie?

A: “Beauty and the Beast”, because of the library and the talking cutlery.

 

Concentration is a part of life.

“Concentration is a part of life. It is not the consequence of a method of education.” - Maria Montessori

There’s a certain conception that remains prevalent in our society today about the ‘problem of concentration’. Or, in more contemporary terms, many people are concerned to address what they perceive to be an inability of children to remain attentive to tasks for an extended period of time. 

Ironically, when we do observe children immersed in an activity, in what may seem like a lengthy engagement, we immediately think that something might also be awry. “Why are they so absorbed?”, we asked ourselves. “Don’t they want to play with their friends”, we wonder. 

Ultimately, and in both different cases, the one where concentration doesn’t seem to be readily present, and the other, where it feels overly present, we rather hurriedly rush, singularly focused on a lone question: “Is there something wrong with my child?”

The focus, in this case, is placed solely on the child.

Montessori herself, before she discovered what would later become her method, describes the first time she observed a child totally absorbed by an activity. “This did not seem normal to me. It was normal but I had studied the psychology of those days which said that little children were incapable of concentrating.”

“This was the seed”, says Montessori. 

Arising from this original, germinal insight, Montessori went on to redefine the role of the teacher, and essentially, that of the classroom, which she termed the prepared environment, in, as we will come to see, a rather novel way. 

She offers two examples:

First, the teacher was to “lead the children to concentration”. Which, perhaps counter to our thoughts about traditional education, means not interrupting the students when they are focused, whether that means to praise them or correct them, but rather, allowing them the opportunity to explore the work on their own accord, discovering their own mistakes.

As Montessori describes, in a note to teachers, “If you interfere, a child’s interest finishes, the enchantment of correcting himself is broken. It is as though he says, “I was with myself inside. You called me and so it is finished. Now this material has no more importance for me’. A child does not need praise; praise breaks the enchantment.” 

If you close your eyes for a moment and reflect upon your own childhood education, picturing the type of interactions you had with your teacher and your classmates, and the setting in which these relationships transpired, the entire mode of instruction is predicated on a model of interruption. 

For instance, we only need remember the type of instructions, and questions, that we were offered while in school. “You will have ten minutes to complete the quiz. When you are finished, can you please raise your hand, and I will collect them.” Or, alternatively, and most alarmingly, “when you hear the bell ring, you must stop what you are doing and immediately proceed to the next class”.

Perhaps this is the reason why so many of us are enchanted by Montessori, and other, alternative forms of education that allow children to focus, and follow their interests, at their own pace, coupled with their own desire.

In the second instance, the role of the teacher, as Montessori elucidates, especially as it pertains to children, is “to help their development afterwards”. What this means, as we mentioned only in a cursory fashion, is that when the children have reached that moment of concentration, the apex of focus, nothing else matters. “This is the moment of conquest, the time when the child instructs himself according to the urge of nature.”

As teachers, then, it is our responsibility, not only to foster the opportunity for concentration to arise, but also, to protect it when it happens. One critical aspect of this, which we will now turn our attention towards, is the importance that the environment plays. Whether consciously or not, the environment directly informs the ways in which we learn. The environment is, at least in part, responsible for the behaviors that are exhibited.

Maria Montessori herself says, “Each child has his own special form of naughtiness, each child is different and so each child reacts differently.” The typical assumption, when we start to see a behavior manifest that is not characterized as appropriate for adults, is to blame the behavior of the child. What Montessori does, on the contrary, is turn her attention towards the environment. 

By the environment, Montessori means something like, the setting, or atmosphere, or conditions in which children are capable of undergoing great transformation. "The child and his environment are in constant relation. The child feels the environment creating the law, a law so powerful that it contributes to the transformation of his own personality."

What is causing this behavior to manifest? Is there a reason, outside of the child, that the child has tendencies to misbehave, or get distracted, or interrupt his or her friends? The teacher in the Montessori classroom always turns towards the environment, before they turn toward the child. “It is nature which brings the children to the point of concentration, not you,” relays Montessori.

The focus, in this case, is placed solely on the environment.